Though the Suicide Squad has enjoyed a lot of exposure thanks to the big-budget movie, the team hasn't been present in comics all that often. After a memorable debut in the 80s, the Squad could never really hold down a book for very long at one time. It fits the members of the group, which are known for being wildly unstable and/or suddenly dying off on occasion.
Anyone looking around for a good representation of recent Suicide Squad books will find an uneven series of stories that fans can't seem to agree on. One of the standout arcs, however, came from writer Ales Kot and artist Patrick Zircher. "Discipline and Punish" starts out like most great comics do: with a giant man-shark reading the collected works of an 13th century poet.
That's King Shark, a villain you might have seen on the Flash TV show if you ever gave into your friends' incessant cries that the series is "actually pretty good." He might not be a familiar face for those who haven't seen the films, but that's okay -- Harley and Deadshot are around too. Well, Deadshot is kind of around, having been shot and killed by the Unknown Soldier in the issue prior.
Deadshot is one of the founding members of the Suicide Squad, so his death should be somewhat shocking. Then again, this is the Suicide Squad, and every member signed on knowing full well that this might happen. Deadshot knew the risks when he agreed to take on a series of dangerous missions to reduce his prison sentence. Even so, you sort of expect him to make it out okay.
But that's the thing -- Deadshot did really die, but he wasn't gone for long. The premise of the expendable Suicide Squad is at odds with the rules of superhero comics, which demands that dead characters return to life a year or two after perishing. Kot and Zircher address this head-on by making the inevitable resurrection a part of the story.
In this case, it wasn't DC Comics editorial that brough Deadshot back from the dead; it was Amanda Waller. As long as the members of her black ops task force are legally bound to her, she can do literally whatever she wants to them. Waller as already embedded cameras in their mandatory contact lenses and surgically inserted bombs in the necks of her team so they don't stray. With the restorative powers of the Samsara Serum, even death doesn't release them from their sentences. They might be expendable, but they're still assets. The longer they're alive, the more use they are to Waller.
That being said, the Samsara Serum isn't exactly stable. Just ask the (ex-)bit player Voltaic.
Though Kot and Zircher's arc is short, it's pretty efficient in showing just how hopeless things are for the Squad, and how ruthless the government has to be to put human beings (even bad ones!) through dire trials like this.
There's also the part where everyone shoots a giant monster made of dead bodies that's terrorizing the Vegas strip.
This is still a comic book, after all.
Most hardcore fans agree that the definitive take on the Suicide Squad was the very first. Well okay, the group technically started in the 1950s, but the first real ongoing series began in 1987. Writer John Ostrander and a host of artists including Luke McDonnell (along with the unsung Kim Yale) defined the whole "ragtag group of convicts on a mission with nothing to lose" thing.
The whole run is worth reading, and honestly it's where you should start if you're at all interesting in reading more about the Squad. Issue #10 is a highlight, and not just because Batman is on the cover. It's how the Squad (specifically the boss Amanda Waller) deals with an unstoppable force that makes this story special.
First, some setup. Buzzkill that he is, Batman wants to gather intel on Waller's illegal death division. So he disguises himself as an inmate to infiltrate a prison and immediately break into a pertinent filing cabinet. You know, Batman stuff.
If you're a bad guy and Batman is on your case, you're kind of screwed. Every villain comic ever made could end with "and then Batman caught me" and it would make complete sense. There's just no escaping the guy.
When the Squad gets wise to Batman's presence, they leap into action. These are hardened criminals with decades of combined military training. But this is the Dark Knight we're talking about. Over the course of a few pages, Batman systematically disables multiple members of the Suicide Squad with a series of CHOKs, THOKs and KRAKs. You know, Batman stuff.
You could use a time machine to cherry-pick the most ruthless assassins throughout history and place them all on one badass team and it still wouldn't be enough to take down Batman. There's no defeating him because his secret superpower is Always Winning All the Time. The Suicide Squad never stood a chance, especially in a few short bouts of fisticuffs.
Even if she had the skills and physique to go toe-to-toe with Batman, Amanda Waller wouldn't bother. She knows she can't win in a fight -- that's why she assembled the Suicide Squad to do her bidding in the first place.
Dude's got a point. Batman has a Masters Degree in Dodging from the Houdini School of Inexplicable Escapes, with a minor in Impossible Bullshit. But Waller doesn't expect Batman to escape, nor is she dumb enough to actually pick a physical fight with an immortal mortal. There's a reason they call Amanda Waller "The Wall," and it's not just because she's built like a brick house.
All it takes is a few words. Even though Batman has already won by successfully stealing info on the squad's clandestine activities, his hand is forced when Waller threatens his secret identity. It's tough to believe Batman would be so careless as to leave his fingerprints all over the cell he was in as a fake inmate, but he probably underestimated The Wall. She's probably used to that by now; her appearance and overall "stiff in a suit" motif gives Waller an edge when it comes to taking her enemies by surprise.
In return for the crucial disk containing all of the squad's information, Amanda pinky-promises that she'll forget everything ever happened.
Batman will keep his side of the deal because, as Waller astutely observes, "He's Batman." But Amanda Waller is Amanda Waller, which means that there's a good possibility she went back to the cell herself and collected some fingerprints to keep in her back pocket in case she ever needs leverage. Now that is some Batman stuff.